For many of us, our pets are who we turn to in times of stress. Sometimes, cats can soothe us with their purrs, and dogs can lift our spirits with just a wag of the tail. It’s important to remember, though, that stress can affect our pets, too.

Sudden Stressful Surprises

Dogs and cats may experience anxiety or tension for environmental reasons, such as thunderstorms or multi-pet territory disputes. They can also be affected by us; they might lose their sense of calm and balance when we do something unexpected like:

  • Leave for vacation
  • Welcome a new baby or housemate
  • Move furniture and home goods—or move to a new home entirely
  • Start or end a work-from-home period

Dogs and cats thrive on routine, especially since we can’t truly share thoughts and conversations with them, so they may have difficulty adapting to home and life changes.

Smile, and the world smiles with you. Worry, and your pets may worry, too! If your own stress level suddenly spikes, you’re likely to behave a bit differently. Are you sleeping less? Pacing more? Increasing your kitty couch cuddling time? Decreasing your pup’s neighborhood walks? Any changes like this may not translate directly for your dog or cat to concerns about a new job, taxes, or a relationship breakup, but they can lead to simple confusion. If your pet can’t quite understand your demeanor or actions, then they may become more anxious.

Can Our Nerves Be Contagious?

There is no doubt that we develop bonds with our pets, and they often seem to be able to sense when we’re not feeling our best. Human emotions come with body language and other visual cues that pets can use to interpret how they might react in certain situations. Since our pets are bonded with us, it can be natural for them to seek us out for chin scratches and snuggles as they learn that these behaviors lead to positive outcomes and interactions. After all, therapy and emotional support animals do great work for people everywhere, every day!

And while we may not be able to say for sure whether your “stressful energy” is contagious in and of itself, we can hope that general wellness is contagious! If you’re feeling your best, mentally and physically, you’re likely more able to provide the best care for your pets, too.

Anxiety From Age or Ailments

Dogs and cats may experience impairment in cognition as they age. They may have mobility, litter box, dietary, and other age-related conditions as well. Or, these signs may show up in a younger pet who has developed an illness.

You may notice some distress in your pet as they work to come to terms with the fact that they aren’t as young as they once were. You could hear your dog whining at the bottom of the staircase because climbing the steps causes pain. You might notice your cat eliminating outside of the box if urination or defecation is difficult or painful.

Behavior changes could be attributed to stress, and we encourage you to contact us for an appointment if you notice that your pet is acting distressed or anxious.

Signs of Stress in Dogs and Cats

Any new or unexpected behavior might be a sign of stress in your dog or cat. Along with whining or different bathroom behaviors as mentioned above, watch out for:

  • Chewing, scratching, or destroying household objects
  • Fear avoidance
  • Aggression
  • Panting
  • Sleeping more or becoming suddenly restless
  • Decreased appetite
  • Unexplained vomiting or diarrhea

Training may not be the issue with these behaviors, and if you suspect stress, then admonishing a pet for these might lead to an uptick in anxiety. Instead, look for solutions like removal to a new activity or object; offer a squeaky toy instead of that chewed up chair leg. Try feline pheromone plug-ins or Thundershirts if storms are causing distress. And overall “plenty of exercise and playtime, and…the right amount of high-quality food” help make a good mental wellness routine.

If you have concerns about your dog or cat’s stress level, call us to make an appointment: (530) 533-7513. Let’s work together to destress your best furry friend!